(director/writer;Krzysztof Kieslowski; Krzysztof Piesiewicz; Runtime: 560; MPAA Rating: NR; Facets-1989-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)

“A masterpiece.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s (“Blind Chance”/”A Short Film About Love”/”The Double Life of Veronique”) 10-hour Polish television serial based on The Ten Commandments. Kieslowski is cowriter with Krzysztof Piesiewicz. It’s brilliant and moving, a masterpiece about the fragility of human nature.

1-“I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have other gods before me.”

cinematographer: Wieslaw Zdort; Runtime: 53; cast: Henryk Baranowski (Father), Wojciech Klata (Pavel, Son), Maja Komorowska (Aunt Irena).

The caring widowed university professor (Henryk Baranowski) lives in a large high-rise apartment complex with his intelligent and inquisitive 11-year-old son Pavel (Wojciech Klata), who pumps him with questions about death, the soul and computers. Pavel is looked after by his Catholic believing aunt Irena (Maja Komorowska). The scientist father trusts completely in his computers and his scientific measurements, so when Pavel on a freezing day in Warsaw asks to get his ice skate Christmas present early he does so after dad calculates that conditions make it certain the ice won’t crack. But a freak thaw occurs on the lake and an unforeseen tragedy befalls the skater.

The film offers a shattering insightful view to shake those up who never figure on chance in their belief in dogmatic certainties.

2-“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

cinematographer: Edward Klosinski; Runtime: 57;

cast: Krystyna Janda (Dorota Geller, wife), Aleksander Bardini (Doctor), Olgierd Lukaszwicz (Andrzej, Husband).

Dorota Geller (Krystyna Janda) is an attractive violinist with the Philharmonic. She’s troubled that her husband Andrzej (Olgierd Lukaszwicz) is dying of cancer. She wonders if he will live, as she has a big decision to make. After visiting her husband in the hospital, she confronts the elderly loner widowed doctor (Aleksander Bardini), who is a consultant in the hospital where her husband is a patient and he lives in her same hi-rise apartment building, to ask if he can tell her with certainty if her husband will live. She tells the doctor that she’s pregnant by another man (we learn later it’s the pianist in her orchestra) and says if she knows her husband will live she will get an abortion; on the other hand, if she knows he will die, she will give birth. She puts the baby’s fate in the hands of the doctor’s prognosis, and the film questions if the medical profession could or should play god.